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Former CSL student receives IEEE recognition of dissertation research


Allie Arp, CSL

While former student Mingu Kang is now a research staff member for IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, the research he conducted while attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is still being recognized.

Kang co-authored a paper, “PROMISE: An end-to-end design of a programmable mixed-signal accelerator for machine learning algorithms,” which he submitted to the IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA), in June 2018. The paper
Mingu Kang
Mingu Kang
was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2019 Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Micro’s Top Picks list and will be featured in the “Top Picks from the Computer Architecture Conferences” edition of the IEEE Micro Magazine, due out in May.

“During my PhD research, I fabricated multiple silicon prototypes to validate the concept of deep in-memory architecture (DIMA) and they were successful, but they were dedicated for specific applications and algorithms,” said Kang. “Those successes motivated us to consider a programmable accelerator with instruction set to cover a wide variety of machine learning algorithms.”

The topic of the award-winning paper was transforming the single-task, mixed-signal deep in-memory chip into a multi-purpose programmable accelerator.

“We took our DIMA chip and turned it into an accelerator, so instead of a limited set of functions, it has all sorts of algorithms mapped on it,” said Kang’s adviser Naresh Shanbhag, Jack S. Kilby Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). “This work shows that the bells and whistles added for programmability do not take away from the energy-delay product gains achieved in the lab testing of the DIMA chips.”
Naresh Shanbhag
Naresh Shanbhag

Both Kang and Shanbhag cite their collaborations as a big reason for the success of the project. They worked with Prakalp Srivastava, advised by CSL's Vikram Adve, the Donald B. Gillies Professor in Computer Sciences (CS), and Nam Sung Kim, CSL/ECE professor, along with several of Shanbhag’s other graduate students.

The project’s collaboration is one of the reasons why Kang was awarded the CSL PhD Thesis Award last fall. The post-graduation honor was one of the first times his research was recognized.

“This project symbolizes high-risk and high-return,” Kang explained. “In 2017, I submitted my work to three conferences but was rejected. I thought about giving up on this project multiple times in 2017, but high-risk, high-reward research is not easy. I want to encourage other PhD students who might be having a hard time because of paper rejections and other difficulties to keep trying.”

Kang’s work in developing and designing the multi-use chips was also featured in an IEEE Spectrum article last March.